3 days in Napa Valley: Memorial Day Bottlerockin’ edition

My favorite weekend of the year to visit Napa Valley is Memorial Day.  Why you ask?  Well, it’s the annual Bottlerock music festival weekend.  Alas, this year is the first year I am not attending of the past few years, as I’ve moved away from Northern California.  That means I’ll be missing out on the Killers, Bruno Mars and tomorrow’s headliner, Muse (all of whom I’ve seen before, but still).  This is the most civilized of all the festivals, with culinary stages and wineries to boot.

While you’re enjoying the festivities, don’t forget to head out from the festival grounds and explore the valley, one of the best weekender locations in the country!

Wine or wine not?

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know before you go: San Antonio (SAT)

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When I heard there was a rhesus monkey that somehow got loose in the San Antonio airport, I thought to myself, that’s so San Antonio.  He was probably just jonesing for some Raising Cane’s (IMO, the best food vendor in the airport).

One of the fastest growing cities in the US, San Antonio is a strange place, often overshadowed by its hip neighbor Austin.  It seems to be a nice place to live and work, and for some reason there are always conferences there.  I myself, have been to San Antonio several times and thus have passed through the airport where said monkey wreaked havoc yesterday.

Located about 8 miles from downtown/River walk, this airport has 24 gates split into two terminals.  Terminal A offers service from Aeromexico, Alaska, Allegiant, Air Canada, American, Delta, Frontier, and Southwest. Terminal B serves American and United flights and there’s a USO for the large military presence in SA.

Remember: ✈️ = Old Man Riverwalk to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = The Big Fundamental

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (not too far and pretty easy to get to from the touristy Riverwalk area)

Security: ✈️✈️✈️✈️:  there’s a steady flow

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️ (McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Raising Cane’s.  There has been a vast improvement since the first time I visited years ago, but taking off a plane for no whataburger)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (fairly well dispersed for a smaller airport)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available)

Amenities:✈️✈️✈️ (there a few mall stores, duty free, United lounge, USO)

know before you go: STL

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name a more iconic duo…i’ll wait

Really, the only thing you need to know is that Lambert International Airport (STL) serving St. Louis, Missouri has Ted Drewes custard machines.

This alone should give it a top rating.  These babies serve 6 concrete flavors, ice cold, smooth and creamy deliciousness, I would book a flight there today just for that.  Bold statement coming:  you have not lived until you’ve had Ted Drewes custard.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Lambert Airport (named after a famous STL Olympian and aviator) is one of more historic airports in the country, as it is the site of the first use of air traffic control, and it had close association with Charles “Spirit of St. Louis” Lindbergh.  It has two terminals, Terminal 2 is made up of Concourse E for Southwest and international travel, with WOWAir starting this month to Iceland.

Terminal 1 is slight into 4 concourses:  A serves Delta, United, Air Canada Express, B is vacant and used for events; C is used by American, Frontier, Cape Air and Air Choice One (question mark?), D is mostly vacant except for those renamed as E gates and used by Southwest.  Because many gates are vacant right now, it’s hard to tell how many are actually in use, but probably ~40 active gates.

Remember: ✈️ = E.I. E.I uh-oh to  ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = meet me in st. louis

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️ (about 14 miles from Downtown, it’s not that close, but it does sit quite prominently on i-70)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s all one long connected strand)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (better than most)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️  (five ✈️ for Ted Drewes; if you’re eating anything other than a concrete from one of the three vending machines in this airport, you’re just being unnecessary…although I can make an exception for a Schlafly at one of the two brewery locations).

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️  (can use a little updating, but usually clean)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi available for 60 minutes)

Amenities: ✈️  (Well, you didn’t come here to shop.  There’s an American Airlines Admirals’ Club and a Wingtips common use lounge, but otherwise just find a Ted Drewes to keep you occupied)

day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?

weekender in Palm Springs (Coachella tips, y’all)

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In two weeks is a weekend that is one of my favorite of the year, first weekend of Coachella, the granddaddy of all music festivals.  Sure, Lolla is great, Governor’s Island is hip and Outside Lands is chill, but Coachella is the one they all aspire to be, for the star power and cool factor alone.  I mean, watching hundreds of musical acts in sunny California is ideal.

In my twenties, I looked forward to actually attending the festival, but now that I’m a little (read: a lot) older, I look forward to the mass exodus of festival goers from LA/OC (less traffic, reservations!).  But, I do have fond memories of attending the festival, so here are some tips to aid in your weekend of revelry.

Hopefully with no Beyonce biting…

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36 hours in San Antonio

In celebration of the start of the Final Four tomorrow, culminating in an undoubtably fantastic NCAA championship game Monday (hopefully featuring my school, I won’t say which, but if you read this blog, you can probably guess), here’s to planning your weekend in San Antonio!

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Inexplicably, I’ve been to San Antonio several times for work.  Texas’s second largest city, it’s one of the fastest growing cities in the country.  There’s a huge US armed forces contingent there and is probably best known for being home to the Alamo and previously, Tim Duncan.

Beyond that, the food and drink scene in San Antonio is fantastic.  Not only do you have spectacular Tex Mex regional cuisine, but every restaurant has it’s own unique look and feel.  The decor in some of these restaurants–especially the ones in repurposed spaces is something to behold.  It’s a multicultural city with so many identities, and that’s what makes it a great place to create some memories.

Remember the Alamo…

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3 days in Portland

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Portland is one of the great food cities in the country.  Add the lush backdrop of Mt. Hood and the proximity to natural beauties such as Columbia River Gorge, and you have a perfect destination to spend a few days.

There are so many distinct personalities of the city, as depicted on Portlandia.  While maybe a slight exaggeration, it certainly is an amalgam of cultures and types of people. So come with an open mind and an open stomach, grab a pair of Portland based Nikes and…

Just do it.

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3 days in Chicago

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Chicago is one of the best cities in the country…nay, the world, to visit.  An epicenter of food, culture, art, sport, and architecture–it has it all.  I’ve been to the Windy City at least a dozen times (and I’m heading back there this weekend), and undoubtedly, I’ve had some of the best times of my life there.  This guide is my ideal time in the city, but there’s no humanly way possible you can eat to your heart’s content in such a short period of time.  But no one will hold it against you for trying.

Do you remember when? Fireworks at Lake Michigan, cuz I’m coming home again –‘Ye

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